The Best Diets and How They Work

COMMENTARY | I have had issues with weight control and self-esteem most of my adult life. My efforts at weight loss and a healthy lifestyle have been complicated by other health issues, in particular being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. When I am having a “flare” of this disease, I cannot tolerate fiber, I am prescribed medications such as steroids, which make me want to eat continuously, and I have to pay special attention to potassium and sodium intake. When I am having a flare, it is hard for me to ingest and retain enough potassium and sodium, when I am well, the opposite is true. Over the years, I have personally tried five of the 25 “top diets” that U.S. News recently ranked, as well as dozens of other weight loss fads. The following are some of my experiences with these diets.

The Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet was ranked No. 22 on the list by U.S News and it’s one of the diets I tried several years ago. On this diet you are free to consume as much protein and fat you want, but you are limited in the number of carbs that you can eat, and even then the carbs must come from a vegetable on the “approved” low carb list. I lost an unbelievable 18 pounds the first two weeks that I was on this diet, but soon after that my weight loss slowed. I became bored with my food choices and resumed my former eating habits. This diet is great for quick weight loss in the short term, but is hard to stick with longer than a month or so. One unexpected benefit of this diet is that it did seem to make my hair and nails very strong and shiny.


I grew up on my grandparents’ farm. At the age of 8 I learned the “hard way” to not view the animals on the farm as “pets”. I quickly became a lacto-ovo vegetarian and remained one for about 10 years. I never had any issues with weight control while I was on this diet, and living on a farm meant that I had access to many free, fresh vegetables for most of the year. The only drawback to this diet is that if you don’t have your own garden, it can be expensive to afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, when I am having a Crohn’s flare, it’s almost impossible to follow this diet as I cannot consume fiber during the active phases of the disease.

The Slim Fast Diet

I followed this diet for about a month after I had my first child. I could not follow this diet for very long. It left me feeling “starved” and deprived. While it snagged the 12th spot on U.S. News’ list, it would rank on the bottom of mine, near the Grapefruit Diet fad that many followed several years ago. I actually gained weight on this diet, because I would feel so “starved” that I would binge eat late in the evenings after feeling “deprived” throughout the day.

The DASH Diet

I followed this diet after the birth of my second child. This particular pregnancy was complicated by toxemia and preeclampsia. The DASH Diet helped me to not only lose weight, but also to lower my blood pressure and cholesterol levels. I stayed on this diet for about a year. The only trouble with this diet is that like many other diets, it would be difficult to follow during times of Crohn’s flares because I would be unable to follow it and maintain an adequate sodium intake. Still, for otherwise healthy individuals, or those who suffer from heart health issues, this is a great diet. Since Heart Disease is still one of the leading causes of death in our country, and this diet does work to improve heart health, it is easy to see why this diet earned the top ranking from U.S. News.

The Mediterranean Diet

Of all of the diets that I have tried, I have had the most success with this diet. This diet is similar to the DASH Diet in that it is really not a “diet” but a way to make a permanent, sustainable change to a healthier lifestyle. Unlike the DASH diet, it does allow you to incorporate more sodium, as well as some other food choices that are forbidden under the DASH diet. This diet is my personal No. 1-ranked diet; even though U.S. News only ranked it No. 3.

There are some things that none of the ranked diets included that I have personally found that are necessary to successfully lose weight and keep it off. In addition to making a commitment to eating in a healthier manner, it is necessary to incorporate daily exercise. It also helps to have weight loss “buddies” to encourage you as you each share your dieting struggles and successes. I have also personally found that daily prayer helps to encourage me when I hit bumps in the road along the way to achieving a healthier lifestyle.

A few years ago I changed my lifestyle to one that was healthier. I began walking each day; working up to walking five miles every day and eating a diet that closely resembled The Mediterranean Diet. In six months I lost 86 pounds and I kept it off for over two years. After an illness last year, I have regained half of my lost weight. While this is disappointing, I am now walking and making healthy food choices each day, so I know that I can lose this weight again.


“Best Diets Overall”, U.S. News & World Reports.

More from this Contributor:
My Resolutions for a Healthier Lifestyle
Winter Survival for Skin, Hair, and Nails
My Journey to a Greener New Year

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